February Skies – by Dick Cookman

Highlights:  Comet Journal, Martian Landers, Meteor Showers, Planet Plotting, February Moon 

Focus Constellations: Ursa Major, Ursa Minor, Draco, Cepheus, Cassiopeia, Camelopardalis, Perseus, Auriga, Taurus, Orion, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Lynx, Leo Minor

  • Comet Journal

The “Green Comet” C/2022 E3 (ZTF) is a long period comet which last visited 50,000 years ago. It is in Camelopardalis and will rapidly move past Auriga, through Taurus, and will sail into eastern Orion in February. In extremely dark skies, sharp-eyed observers may see it with the naked eye. For most observers, binoculars viewing is a better choice. It reached perihelion on the Jan. 12 and is closest to Earth on February 1-2 when it can be viewed throughout the night. By February 28, it rises in the afternoon and sets after midnight and it will probably fade to magnitude 8. 

Comet C/2020 V2 (ZTF) and C/2022 A2 (PanSTARRS) are 9th magnitude evening comets which are respectively located between Perseus and Andromeda and on the northern horizon below Cepheus. The former will pass perihelion in May, 2023 and will be closest to Earth in September, 2023. The latter reaches perihelion of Feb. 18 and was closest to Earth on January 17.

  • Mars Landers

Gale Crater was chosen as Curiosity’s mission target because it is located on the boundary between southern Mars with its thick crystalline crust which may have originally been continental crust and northern Mars which has a much thinner volcanic crust which may have originally been oceanic crust. 

A current working hypothesis for the 154 km diameter crater is theorized to some to be the result of a giant impact that altered the geologic history of Mars and discoveries made during the ongoing ascent of Mt. Sharp will test this hypothesis. 

During its science campaigns, the Perseverance rover has taken a pair of samples from rocks the mission team deems scientifically significant. One sample from each pair taken so far is retained in the rover and its backup sits in the carefully arranged depot in the “Three Forks” region of Jezero Crater. The depot is near the base of the raised, fan-shaped ancient delta currently under investigation.

  • Meteor Showers

February has few meteor showers for the northern hemisphere. The Delta Leonid shower is a very minor shower and the better Alpha Centaurids are confined to the southern hemisphere. 

February 24: Delta Leonids, Active February 15 – Mar. 10. Radiant 11hr12min+16°. ZHR 2. 23 km/sec. Waxing Crescent Moon. Progenitor: Asteroid 1987SY.

  • Planet Plottings

The Greeks called the planets wanderers because they appeared to wander through the constellations. Planets move through constellations now designated as the Zodiac which meant circle of animals. They wander through the zodiac because its plane is parallel to that of Earth’s orbit which more or less coincides to the orbital planes of most other planets in the Solar system. Mercury is the farthest off at 7°.

Mercury (0.0) drops from Sagittarius into Capricornus in February near the eastern horizon and is the only morning planet during the first half of the month. On the 18th, it is very low in the morning twilight and hard to observe near the waning crescent Moon. Saturn (0.8) can be observed low in the eastern morning sky in Aquarius late in the month after solar conjunction on the 16th and after the waning crescent Moon appears to pass it on the 20th. Lucky observers with dark skies and a low western horizon may see Saturn deep in the glow of sunset in early February.

After the near conjunction of Venus (-3.8 to -3.9) in Aquarius with Neptune (7.9) in Aquarius on the 16th, Neptune appears very low in the western evening sky in Capricornus below Jupiter (-2.0) in Pisces and Venus. Venus and Jupiter appear to move closer together in February as Jupiter descends toward the horizon and Venus ascends higher. The waxing crescent Moon appears to pass Neptune on the 21st, Venus on the 22nd, and Jupiter on the 23rd. 




Planet Passages






New Moon

2:05AM EST



Sagittarius, Capricornus



Aquarius, Pisces

-3.8 to -3.9

Neptune 0.03° W

1:00PM EST









Capricornus, Aquarius


Solar Conjunction

5:00PM EST





Venus 0.03° E

1:00PM EST





  • February Moon

February’s New Moon is in Aquarius on the 20th at 2:05AM EST. The New Moon is the start of Lunation 1239 which ends 29.47 days later with the New Moon of March in Pisces on the 21st at 1:23PM EST. The Full Moon is in Gemini on the 5th at 1:28PM EST. The February Moon is called “Wolf Moon”, the “Snow Moon” or “Hunger Moon”. It was called the “Storm Moon” in Medieval England and for Celts it was the “Moon of Ice”. In China, it is the “Budding Moon” and Colonial Americans called it “Trapper’s Moon”. Anishnaabe (Odawa and Ojibwe) first people recognize the February Moon as “Namebibni-giizis” (Suckerfish Moon) in the western dialect and “Miss-giizis” (Bear Moon) in the eastern dialect. Earth Haven Farm in Ontario documents the cultural teaching which explains the cycle of life and nature of the 2nd Grandmother Moon of Creation as follows: “The second moon of Creation is the Bear Moon, when we honour the vision quest that began in the Fall. During this time, we discover how to see beyond reality and to communicate through energy rather than sound.” Lunar Apogee (maximum lunar distance) is on the February 4 at 4:00AM EST, when the Moon will be at a distance of 252,272 mi. (63.73 Earth radii). Lunar Perigee distance (minimum lunar distance) is 222,617 mi. (56.27 Earth radiil) on the 19th at 3:55PM EST. The waning crescent Moon appears to pass Mercury on the 18th and Saturn on the 20th. The waxing crescent Moon passes Neptune on the 21st, Venus on the 22nd, Jupiter on the 23rd, and Uranus on the 25th. On the 28th, the waxing gibbous Moon passes Mars.




Moon Passages

Moon Phase

Moon Age

Sun Aquarius


1:23PM EST, 2/20 New 0 Days
Mercury Capricornus


3.5°S,E, 11:00PM EST, 2/18 Waning Crescent 28.30 Days
Venus Pisces


1.85°SE, 10:00AM EST, 2/22 Waxing Crescent 2.33 Days
Mars Taurus


1.07°N, 5:00AM EST, 2/28 Waxing Gibbous 8.12 Days
Jupiter Pisces


1.09°SE, Midnight EST, 2/23 Waxing Crescent 2.91 Days
Saturn Aquarius


3.4°SE, 3:00AM EST, 2/20 Waning Crescent 29.43 Days
Uranus Aries


1.19°NNW, 1:00PM EST, 2/25 Waxing Crescent 5.45 Days
Neptune Aquarius


2.21° S, 9:00PM EST, 2/21 Waxing Crescent 1.79 Days